“Grant me the wisdom to know the difference” [Between the things I can and cannot change.]
Strength, courage and, finally, wisdom. Wisdom, in my humble opinion, involves the most difficulty of the three. Where strength and courage reside, to some degree, within us or can be incorporated into our being relatively quickly (not easily). Wisdom requires time, experience and insight. Wisdom implies the ability to put aside biases that arise from personal feelings and past experiences, but to draw, objectively, from those same experiences. Possession of true wisdom necessitates stripping yourself of personal viewpoints and facing an issue in its starkness. Wisdom assigns each difficult encounter to strength or courage.
When I started investigating prison life, I found that certain resources would not exist for the inmates, including me. Internet access and access to necessary educational resources simply were not available. Yet, the “party line” of the Federal Bureau of Prisons stresses preparation for release. In a world completely dependent on the internet, magnified tremendously by the pandemic, how impossible to prepare for release as the world barrels along and inmates remain in the 1970’s? That single omission from the life of an inmate, alone, made them helpless and insignificant in the real world.
Complete disconnection between what the BOP says and the actions of the BOP permeate our lives. Even written resources have long since become old and obsolete. Unfortunately, the BOP ignores the issue, but continues to espouse preparation for release. We cope with a large federal agency and wisdom compels us, as inmates, to call upon strength in this situation. Sadly, if your offense involves drug dealing or selling pornography and the BOP provides no resources to help you discover a new career path, where do you think your end point will be? Beyond that, if abusing drugs or participating in sexual offenses caused you incarceration, where will the pressure, stress and depression which accompanies the lack of hope upon release lead you?
An extremely limited window of opportunity will present itself during incarceration to develop strength and courage. The hope of activating and making these qualities a part of your being must sustain you. Fortunately, seeking assistance typically rewards the search, not in the BOP and its staff, but in inmates helping other inmates. Despite having to overcome their own challenges, some inmates possess the desire to help, imparting some measure of their strength, courage and wisdom to those lacking in those areas.
My wisdom originates from observation and analysis. I think I have successfully communicated the concept. With others I have had the good fortune to meet, their wisdom stems from what they’ve learned from the teachings of God. All in all, they impart all of there three qualities to others selflessly and through what they’ve learned through stories of people in the Bible. Strength, courage and wisdom represent three qualities that seem to be a prerequisite to surviving prison life.